How to Create a Fillable Form in Microsoft Word

Filling out a form with a pen

There are plenty of online tools to create forms, but if you prefer a desktop application and are comfortable with Microsoft Word, you can make a fillable form in no time. Easily add form controls like checkboxes, text fields, drop-down menus, and more, for the complete package.

FYI: looking for a different form builder? Check out these free alternatives to Google Forms.

Display the Developer Tab in Word

To add the controls to your form, display the "Developer" tab. If you already have this tab at the top of Microsoft Word, you’re one step ahead. If not, follow these simple steps.

Select "File -> Options," and choose "Customize Ribbon" in the Word Options window.

Word Options with Customize Ribbon selected

Use the drop-down menu below "Customize the Ribbon" to pick "Main Tabs."

Word Options with Main Tabs selected

In the list below, check the box for "Developer," then click "OK" to save it.

Word Options with Developer checked

The "Developer" tab will appear along with your main tabs in Word.

Developer tab in Word

How to Create a Fillable Form in Word

There are a variety of form controls that can be added, depending on how you want respondents to complete the form. You may use a text content control for them to enter their name, a date picker to select a date, or a drop-down list to choose an item.

FYI: can't find the right place in your doc? Learn how to search Microsoft Word documents.

Add a Text Content Control

You can add both rich text and plain text content controls to your form. To let respondents use text formatting, like bold or italic, use the rich text option. Otherwise, choose plain text for basic text entries.

Place your cursor where you want the text control, head to the "Developer" tab, and choose either "Rich Text Content Control" or "Plain Text Content Control" in the Controls group.

Text Content Controls in Word

Adjust the settings for the text content control by selecting it and clicking "Properties" in the Controls section of the ribbon.

Text Content Control Properties in Word

For this type of control, you can add a title or tag, select how to display the control, use a specific font style, and choose to remove the control when its contents are edited.

Rich Text Content Control Properties in Word

For the plain text control, there is also an option to allow multiple paragraphs using carriage returns (pressing Enter).

Plain Text Content Control Properties in Word

Select "OK" to save the properties when you finish. Try the control by entering some text inside the box.

Text Content Control added in Word

Similar to the text content control, you can choose from two types of list controls. If you want to allow respondents to pick from a list of items or enter their own item, use the combo box. If you only want to allow them to select from a list, use the drop-down list control.

Place your cursor where you want the list control, go to the "Developer" tab, and choose either "Combo Box Content Control" or "Drop-Down List Content Control" in the Controls group.

List Content Controls in Word

When the control appears in your document, select it, and click "Properties" in the ribbon to add the list items.

List Content Control Properties in Word

Like the text controls, you can add a title or tag, choose how the control displays, and use a particular style. Select "Add" at the bottom to type the first list item.

List Content Control Properties Add button

By default, the "Display Name" you enter in the pop-up box matches the "Value." However, you can change either one if desired. Click "OK" to save the list item.

List Content Control Add Choice box in Word

Follow the same steps to add the rest of your list items. Use the options to the right of the list box to modify or remove a list item, as well as move it up or down in the order.

List Content Control edit options in Word

To change the default text that displays inside the control before an item is selected, select it in the list, choose "Modify," make your changes, and click "OK."

List Content Control Modify Choice box in Word

When you finish with your list items, select "OK" to save them, then try your combo box or drop-down list. You should see the items you added in the order you selected.

List Content Control added in Word

Tip: working with tables as well? Learn how to create and customize tables in Microsoft Word.

Include a Date Picker Control

For a form where you want the respondents to enter a date, you can use the date picker control. This makes it easy, as you can simply choose a date from a pop-up calendar. Plus, you can set the format for the date’s display beforehand.

Place your cursor where you want the date control, open the "Developer" tab, and choose "Date Picker" in the Controls group.

Date Picker Control in Word

Select the control, and click "Properties" in the ribbon.

Date Picker Control Properties in Word

Once again, you have those same options at the top of the "Properties" window for title, tag, and so on. Head down to the Date Picker Properties section to choose the format and other options.

  • Display the date like this: choose a date format from the list to be displayed directly above.
  • Locale and Calendar type: select a different country or language (if applicable) and a default calendar style.
  • Store XML contents in the following format when mapped: if you plan to map the control, choose the text, date, or date and time option you want in the drop-down list.
Date Picker Control Properties box in Word

Click "OK" when you finish, then test your date picker.

Date Picker Control added in Word

Add a Checkbox Control

When you ask your respondents to answer a simple yes or no question, acknowledge a statement, or choose multiple items, you can add checkboxes to your form.

Place your cursor where you want the checkbox control, go to the "Developer" tab, and choose "Check Box Content Control" in the Controls group.

Checkbox Content Control in Word

To change the checked and unchecked symbols, select the control, then "Properties" in the ribbon.

Checkbox Content Control Properties in Word

Complete the optional properties the same way you did the other controls, or go straight to "Check Box Properties" near the bottom for the symbols. Select "Change" next to the "Checked symbol," "Unchecked symbol," or both.

Checkbox Content Control Properties symbol Change buttons

Pick the symbol, character, or icon from the Symbol box that opens, and click "OK" to save it.

Symbol box in Word

When you are finished with the Properties, click "OK."

Checkbox Content Control Properties Changed symbols

Try your checkbox by marking and unmarking the box.

Checkbox Content Controls added in Word

Good to know: want to be more efficient in Word? Read on to learn these time-saving tips for Word documents.

Insert a Building Block Control

If you use Building Blocks in Microsoft Word, such as Quick Parts, AutoText, or equations, you can include a control to choose one. This provides an easy way to insert premade blocks of text.

Place your cursor where you want the Building Block control, head to the "Developer" tab, and choose "Building Block Gallery Content Control" in the Controls group.

Building Block Content Control in Word

To select the Building Block type and category, select the control, then "Properties" in the ribbon.

Building Block Content Control Properties in Word

Optionally, complete or select the properties in the top section of the box. Select the drop-down box near the bottom next to "Gallery" to choose Quick Parts, AutoText, or another option. Then, use the "Category" box directly under that to choose the category. Click "OK" when you are finished.

Building Block Content Control Gallery and Category menus

Select the drop-down menu at the top of the form control to choose the block of text to enter.

Building Block Content Control added in Word

Include a Picture Control

One last control you may want to include on your form is for a picture. This is a simple control that allows the respondent to choose an image to add from their device, online, or a stock image.

Place your cursor where you want the picture control, head to the "Developer" tab, and choose "Picture Content Control" in the Controls group.

Picture Content Control in Word

While there aren’t distinctive properties for the picture control, you can still add the title and tag or change the display type or color. Select the control, choose "Properties" in the ribbon, and make your adjustments.

Picture Content Control Properties in Word

Select "OK" to save your changes, then try your picture control. When you click the control, you should be prompted to choose an image location.

Picture Content Control added in Word

Tip: check out our guide to learn how to place images where you want them in your Word document.

Use the Legacy Form Controls

If you plan to share your form with others who may have older versions of Microsoft Word, you can also use the legacy form controls. These also include options that are not in the set of form controls discussed above.

Select "Legacy Tools" in the Controls section of the ribbon to see a drop-down menu of options.

Legacy Form Controls in Word

Choose from the same types of controls like text content, checkbox, and list controls in the Legacy Forms section. They just offer different properties than the Legacy Forms.

Legacy Forms Word

Additionally, there are ActiveX controls that are unique, like an option button, spin button, toggle button, and scroll bar.

ActiveX Controls in Word

If you insert one of the legacy form controls, select it, and click "Properties" in the ribbon to see your options.

Legacy Form Text control Options in Word

Protect the Form From Editing, Except for Fillable Fields

When you finish creating your form using the controls listed here, you may want to protect it from being edited. While you do want respondents to enter text, choose items, and check boxes, you probably don’t want them to edit the verbiage or other items you used to create the form.

For example, we want respondents to enter their name in the Name text field, but don’t want them to edit or remove the "Name" label that was added.

To protect the form, return to the "Developer" tab, and choose "Restrict Editing" in the Protect group.

Restrict Editing on the Developer tab in Word

In the first section, restrict the formatting in the form. Check the box to enable this option, and click "Settings" to choose the styles you want to restrict or allow.

Formatting Restrictions in Word

In the second section, editing, other than fillable fields, can be restricted. Check the box for "Allow only this type of editing in the document," then choose "Filling in forms" in the drop-down list.

Editing Restrictions in Word

When you finish, use the "Yes, Start Enforcing Protection" button to save and restrict editing.

Start Enforcing Protection button in Word

You’ll be prompted to optionally protect the form with a password. To use a password, enter one you’ll remember, verify it, and select "OK." To proceed without using a password, simply choose "OK" without entering anything.

Start Enforcing Protection password box

Note: save the password somewhere safe, as it is not recoverable if you forget it. Check out these password managers if you don’t already have one.

To turn off the protection later and make the form editable again, select "Restrict Editing" in the ribbon, then "Stop Protection" to unprotect the form. Enter the password if you chose this option above.

Stop Protection button in Word

Easy-to-Make Fillable Forms

Using Microsoft Word to create a form others can complete is a great way to go. Share the form with them using the built-in sharing options, or send it via email if you prefer. Either way, the controls make setting up a form easy in Word.

Now that you know how to create a fillable form in Word, why not look at how to make a checklist for tasks, packing, or shopping?

Image credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.

Sandy Writtenhouse
Sandy Writtenhouse

With her BS in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She wanted to help others learn how technology can enrich business and personal lives and has shared her suggestions and how-tos across thousands of articles.

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